I love stuffed bell peppers! When well prepared, the peppers are soft and mild and can be stuffed with most kinds meat or seafood-many in South Louisiana add rice to the stuffing; my grandmother used a mixture of ground beef and ground ham. Almost every cuisine has a version of stuffed peppers. These very flavorful goodies have a filling made with beef and veal, cooked down with sweet onions, chopped bell peppers and spices, making a perfectly delicious stuffing. Fight the urge to make them too large; they are so good you’ll be tempted to eat too many! Make sure you get a nice piece of pepper with every bite of stuffing. Stuffed bell peppers are a great main dish but also great as a side with red beans and rice. They go great with mac and cheese or pasta with tomato sauce. You won’t believe how great these are as left overs-something about the way the flavors meld together. Another option is to freeze the stuffed pepper before you bake them and save for a later time. This makes a large batch so you may be able to enjoy some now and save some happiness for a later date. Get a couple of cold beers standing by and let’s get going.
First, you have a beer. During that first swig, contemplate the game plan. You always want to prep your ingredients before doing any cooking and make sure you have all your implements, pots and pans and bowls ready. That way you can combine the parts in a manner that improves the whole, but just as importantly you can confirm that you have everything you need and won’t have to scurry around frantically while the garlic is burning!
This is what you need:
Foremost is the peppers themselves. This dish looks really nice using a combination of green, yellow and red bell peppers, but any color is fine. Wash the peppers under cold running water with a soft vegetable brush. This will remove any kind of wax coating that may have been applied by the grocer to keep the peppers looking good. If the peppers aren’t too large, just cut the tops off and scoop out the veins and seeds. If they are pretty big, trim the stem but don’t remove it and slice the peppers lengthwise making a little boat. You’ll want the peppers softened a little before you stuff and bake them, so parboil them in boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes (that’s after the water comes back to a boil). Do this in batches, 2 or three at a time, so it doesn’t take too long to return to a boil. Remove the peppers and place immediately into ice bath which will shock the peppers and stop the cooking process-you don’t want them mushy. Once the peppers are cooled, place them upside down on paper towels to drain and set them aside. Next combine all the spices in a small bowl, get the butter and oil measured out and set all that aside; chop the onions and bell peppers and set aside in a bowl-you’ll want all the veggies cut up pretty fine. Chop the garlic fine also and set aside. Measure out the stock and the breadcrumbs and set aside; unpack the meat and set aside. Now you are ready to start cooking, so how’s your beer?
This is what you do:
Heat the oil and butter in a cast iron dutch oven or large pot and when the butter is starting to foam, throw in the chopped onions and peppers and sauté until almost clear. Add the garlic, stirring until aromatic which only takes a couple of minutes. At this point add most of the herbs and spices, you’ll want to save some for later when you test for seasoning. Using your hands, crumble the meat into the veggie mixture. Mix well and brown the meat until just the pink is gone, breaking up all the lumps as you go-its important to break the meat down into as small as you can. Once browned you may want to remove some of the rendered fat, but not all. When the meat is browned properly (just until the pink is gone), add about 1 to 1 1/2 cup of beef stock, reserving the rest in case it’s needed later, if needed. Bring this up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and let this cook until the stock is almost evaporated, probably around 10 to 15 minutes; you may end up adding a little more stock if it looks like it’s reducing down too quickly. This step helps bring the flavors together, so you don’t want to short the time. Taste the mixture, sometime its still a little bland at this stage so add more of the spice mix if you think its needed. Now its time to tighten it up a bit. Add the bread crumbs a little at a time until you have the consistency you want, be careful not to add too much. Add a little more stock if needed. At this stage it should have the consistence of a filling or stuffing, very nicely blended and smooth-breaking the meat down into very small pieces really helps get the consistency you want. Taste again for salt/seasoning, add some of the reserved spices if you want. Let the stuffing sit covered for about 10 minutes while you get ready for the next step.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an oven safe casserole dish with low sides by spreading some soften butter or spraying a little cooking spray in the bottom. Remove the bay leaves from the stuffing, then using a kitchen table-spoon or similar implement stuff the filling into peppers, making sure to press down to fill all the voids. Once filled, place each pepper into the casserole dish. When they are all in there, sprinkle the tops with a little bread crumbs and place a tab of butter on top of each one. Pour a small amount of water in the bottom of the baking dish, maybe about a half-inch, and adjust the peppers to make sure some of the water gets underneath them.
Bake at 350 deg for about 30 to 45 minutes uncovered; they are done when an instant read thermometer reads about 160. If they are starting to brown too much, just lay a piece of aluminum foil over them in the oven until they are finished baking. Take out and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Yeah you right…Enjoy.